Songs to the Goddess @ Serena Morton

I am the Goddess of the Moon, the Earth, the Seas.

My names are many, yet know that by all names I am the same. I pour fourth insight, peace, wisdom and understanding.

I am the eternal Maiden, Mother of all, and Crone of reckoning, and I send you blessings of limitless love.

– Unknown Celtic Author

How do you define a goddess? What does she look like? How does she act? All over the world, the idea of the goddess exists under multiple different guises. Throughout folklore, history and myth, goddesses have placed us under their spells and taken our breath away. While there is no consensus over who these celestial beings are, most of us can agree that they are wonders of natural beauty. Inspired by a Celtic poem, Serena Morton presents us with a diverse display of tributes to the ultimate female muse as interpreted by 17 artists.

The women displayed in the exhibition transverse time and space. Imagined, idealised beauties lie gracefully among known muses. Kate Moss can be seen with her eyes closed like a sleeping beauty in the prints of Chris Levine, while Damian Elwes screen prints show dozing ladies at peace resting amongst flora and fauna. While these women appear contemporary and modern, Celia Lyttelton’s etchings take us back to antiquity in her portrayals of Ariadne and Thetis. The works on paper look as though they have survived hundred of years, while they were only made in 2017. The earthy brown tones stress the natural qualities of her belles, whose soft faces seem to glow amongst their surroundings as if they are angels.

This calm spirit in Lyttelton’s prints is mirrored in the work of Anouska Beckwith. In Aura, a nude lady floats on the surface of the water in a sea of tranquility. Her arms are open, as though she is opening her body to the world. As her face looks up towards the sky, she looks so gorgeously content that the image seems to have a calming effect on the viewer. Dashes of gold lines have been added around the woman’s body, illustrating that she is radiating warmth and goodness. Beckwith’s other work is a collaborative piece with Anika Nixdorf. Ceremony shows her muse, Flo Morrissey, crouching amongst branches. She is nestled in a space under a full moon, complete with a bonfire and a snake. It is clear that whatever act Morrissey is involved in, is only one of kindness, as she looks gently at the camera.

Other photographs include the black and white portraits of Jamie Morgan, whose portraits of Neneh Cherry and her daughter Mabel Cherry McVey are particularly striking. The pair of images are particularly important in this exhibition as their exhibition is a display of the mother goddess passing down her talents and beauty to her daughter. Morgan’s Solarised Birds #3 is one of a series of photographs that portrays women with fabric covering their face. The inclusion of the cloth adds a sense of mystery to the sitter, while in this particular portrait, the shape of the textile covering the woman’s visage is reminiscent of impressions of the Egyptian goddess Nefertiti.

While the ladies amongst the artwork are all vastly different, there are a number of ’songs’ to these goddesses that do not display the female face at all. Paul Vanstone’s Torso series comprises smooth sculptures of the female that show a love for the female body, rather than her facial beauty. Constructed out of onyx, the forms appear delicate, yet strong and powerful at the same time. Onyx is a soothing stone which is said to alleviate fears and worries with the ability to make you feel comfortable within yourself and your surroundings, thus reflecting the often preconceived notion that goddesses exude magic and supernatural gifts whilst also stressing that they are female forces to be reckoned with.

Moving away from female depiction altogether and back into the natural world, Emma Levine’s laser cut trees appear proudly like beholders of immense powers. Both New Forest Tree and Silver Tree are presented alone as thick, strong trunks overflowing with leaves and branches. The works are highly detailed and delicate with the ends of the branches being incredibly fine and wispy. One gets the feeling that the tree is related to the goddess in some way and that amongst the fragile leaves lays an abundance of wisdom and secrets.

The viewer leaves Songs to the Goddess still not knowing who the goddess is, but rather, they learn more about whom goddesses are. The exhibition is a love letter to females and a celebration of femininity. Through drawing, painting, printing, photography and sculpture, Songs to the Goddess exposes the viewer to the multifaceted beauty of women.

Songs to the Goddess is on display at Serena Morton until 4 May 2017

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and has written for After Nyne, Arteviste, Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine and Reorient.

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